Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
News & Notes
Lute Olson compiled a 43-6 record against Arizona State. Since he took a leave of absence last year, Arizona is 0-4 against the Sun Devils.
Against ASU, Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, and Nic Wise all logged 40 minutes. For the year the three are each averaging over 35 minutes a game. They are the only team in the Pac-10 with three players averaging over 35 minutes a game. Come Pac-10 tournament time these three horses have to be tiring.
Oregon State swept the season series against Cal for the first time since the 1994-95 season.
Jerome Randle has 59 three-pointers this season putting him 9 shy of the school season record 68 set by Ryan Drew in 1990. With four games left and Randle averaging over two a game he stands a fighting chance at overtaking Drew.
Washington State’s win at UCLA last week was only their second win in their 53 games at Pauley Pavilion.
The battle for coach of the year in the Pac-10 has four solid candidates. With the jobs Mike Montgomery, Russ Pennell, Craig Robinson, and Lorenzo Romar have done, there is an excess of candidates to choose from.
Pennell is the front-runner right now in my mind. He turned this Arizona team around and has them at 8-6 in the Pac-10 and 18-9 overall. He was the second choice for interim coach in late October. Last year he did color commentary for Arizona State radio network.
Jon Brockman is the only mid-season candidate for the Naismith trophy from the Pac-10.
Player of the week: Taylor Rochestie
Rochestie scored 24.5 points a game for Washington State this week. Rochestie also averaged five rebounds and four assists a game. Rochestie scored 33 points in WSU’s upset of UCLA. He shot 5-for-7 from three-point range and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw stripe.
Honorable Mention: Darren Collison and Rihards Kuksiks
Collison scored 18.5 points and averaged 6.5 assists for UCLA this past week. Collison went a perfect 7-for-7 from the line in the two games. Kuksiks scored 17 points in Arizona State’s win this week. Kuksiks scored 15 of those on five three-pointers.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
Freshman extraordinaire Isaiah Thomas is averaging 16.5 points a game for Washington. His 413 points so far on the season are the second-highest point total for a freshman in Washington history.
Jon Brockman is putting together another solid season for the Huskies. Against Oregon he registered his 54th double-double of his career. That is the most of any active player.
Jon Brockman, Washington 54
John Bryant, Santa Clara 45
Jeff Adrien, Connecticut 44
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame 43
Tyler Hansbrough, UNC 41
Brockman also holds the Washinton career record for rebounds with 1,159 and is the only Husky in history to total 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. Check out this video the University of Washington made to market its All-American candidate.
Arizona State’s season sweep of UCLA was their first since 2002-03 and first by any team over UCLA since Washington did it in 2005-06.
Arizona’s six-game conference winning streak is the longest by any Pac-10 team this year.
When you hear “Big Three” Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen shouldn’t come to mind, but rather Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise. They have combined to account for 69 percent (1,303 of 1,877 points) of the Wildcats scoring.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
News and Notes
Arizona State‘s Rihards Kuksiks leads the nation in 3-point percentage, but is only third in the Pac-10. How is that possible? Well NCAA statistical leaders need to make a minimum of 2.5 per game from three-point range to qualify, while Pac-10 needs to make one per game and play in 75 percent of the team’s games. Theo Robertson is shooting 56.2% and Michael Roll is shooting 54.5%, both ahead of Kuksiks’s 46.7%. Either way Kuksiks has had a tough time the past two games going 3-for-20 from behind the arc.
Ben Howland‘s 13-4 record against California is his best against any team in the Pac-10.
UCLA’s recent victory over Stanford was UCLA’s largest victory over Stanford at Pauley Pavilion in over 30 years. It was also UCLA’s highest scoring game under Howland. UCLA shot 73% from 3-point range and only 62% from the free throw line. Maybe they should start taking their foul shots from behind the arc.
California, the best three-point shooting team in the nation at 47%, shot 2-for-16 from three-point range against USC.
UCLA dominated teams this week. The Bruins went 3-0 with average margin of victory over 21 points.
Darren Collison, who earlier this year broke the UCLA record for consecutive free-throws with 43, is shooting 94.4% from the line, which leads the nation.
Craig Robinson has turned it around for Oregon State. The Beavers have four wins in the first half of the Pac-10 schedule for the first time since 2002-03.
After another week of ups and downs in the Pac-10, there are really only two locks for the tournament at this point: UCLA and Washington. Four others (Arizona, Arizona State, California, and USC) still have work to do.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
News & Notes.
California’s 66.7% from the field against Oregon was the best any Pac-10 team has registered in conference play this year. Theo Robertson of the Golden Bears still leads the nation in 3-point percentage shooting at a 55.2% clip. Patrick Christopher is just 13 points shy of 1000, at 987. Jerome Randle is right behind at 957. Randle also is ninth in career 3-point field goals made at 125, and tenth in career assists with 313. Randle is also first in career free-throw percentage at 85.7%.
This is just the third time Washington has started 6-1 in the last 25 years. Washington has won 13 out of their last 14 games. It is the first time the Huskies have been in sole possession of first place in the Pac-10 since January 2005. It is just the third time Washington has started 6-1 in the last 25 years. The only time the Huskies ever had a better start through seven games was 1953 when they went 7-0. Last week Washington averaged getting to the free throw line 41.5 times a game. If they keep getting to the line this much they will be hard to beat.
Arizona forward Jordan Hill’s 30 points and 18 rebounds against Houston, was his first game of his career that he broke the 20 point and 15 rebound plateaus. Blake Griffin on the other hand has put together 10 such games so far this year. Aubrey Coleman’s face stomp of Chase Budinger was the most classless act I have seen in years. He should have been suspended multiple games for that. Each high-five he got while leaving the game, should have added a game to it.
Oregon State’s three victories so far match their total of the last two seasons combined.
Joe Lunardi currently has Arizona State, California, UCLA and Washington getting in the dance. It is hard to see any other Pac-10 teams really making a push. USC has been too inconsistent still and they are the only other team with a shot in my mind.
This’ll be quick one today because our usual writer is busy inviting a bunch of dudes over to his pad for some game involving another collegiate sport tonight. A sport that tends to have trouble deciding who the most worthy teams are for its championship just about every year. Our opinion of that faux-championship game is below.
When Does Utah Play in the Finals?
As for the rest of your evening, while you’re not watching Oklahoma and Florida throw balls all over the field en route to a 65-63 finish, enjoy a warm post-coital buffet of some college hoops. There’s a surprisingly tasty slate on tap for tonight, with four games involving Top 25 teams.
– Wright St. @ Butler on ???. Wright St. appears to be coming out of the fog that enveloped its team during the first two months of the season, as they’ve won 8 of 9 games with the only loss coming at #4 Wake Forest. Butler, on the other hand, continues to roll along, but the Bulldogs have had trouble with WSU, losing seven of their last ten against the Raiders including their last two when ranked. The big question is whether this game’s total will outscore the BCS game’s.
– Minnesota @ Iowa on ESPN2. Iowa hasn’t gotten much publicity this season, but the Hawkeyes are 9-0 in their home arena, a place where Minnesota has lost seven of their last eight visits. Minny’s only other true road test was a one-point win over Colorado St., so we’re a little skeptical about the validity of Tubby’s 13-1 record (best start since 1996-97). Still, if Minnesota can get a road win in a place they traditionally don’t play well, it would go a long way toward establishing itself as one of the upper elite of Big Ten teams this year.
– Oregon @ Arizona on FSN Regional. This is a battle between teams who were swept in their first Pac-10 tilts last weekend. The difference is that at least Arizona was on the road in the Bay Area when they went 0-2. Oregon plays defense like most teams enjoy suicide sprints; in other words, not at all. Arizona should have a field day of open looks and easy layups for Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and others to take advantage of. They just need to make sure that Jamelle Horne is nowhere near the floor at the end of the game.
– Oregon St. @ Arizona St. on FSN. Arizona St. may be without the services of forward Jeff Pendergraph tonight, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking in on Herb Sendek’s team for a quick glance at possibly the most complete guard in America, James Harden (23/6/5 on 55%/44% shooting). OSU is coming off of its first Pac-10 win in nearly two years vs. USC, but that was at home. Still, OSU has been much more competitive this year.
– Stanford @ Washington on FSN Regional. UW is a team that hasn’t been talked about much this year, and why would we? They’re 10-3, but they’ve lost to nearly every good team they’ve played (Portland, Kansas, Florida). Stanford got its comeuppence last weekend when Arizona St. dominated them in Maples. But the Cardinal did recover to beat Arizona, and UW had a nice win over its in-state rival Wazzu, so this could make for an interesting contest. Both teams have low-grade NCAA aspirations, so they need to win these types of games.
– Cal St. Fullerton @ Cal Poly on ESPNU. The BCS game should be ending around 12:30am due to all the passing and timeouts, so turn this one on for the last five minutes to see CSF’s Josh Akognon play for the first time in your life. His Titans (6-8 ) aren’t very good, so it’s unlikely you’ll see him in March – this might be your last opportunity to see this fantastic collegian while still in school.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
Stanford is the only team left undefeated in the Pac-10 at 8-0. First year coach Johnny Dawkins has the Cardinal off to their best start since 2003-04 when they ran off 26 straight.
USC finally beat a BCS opponent by trouncing Georgia Tech. The Trojans are still way too inconsistent though, the game before they barely could handle North Dakota State.
Arizona freshman stud Jeff Withey must have seen something about Kansas he liked because Withey declared he is transferring there as of next semester.
The Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List has been released and it contains five Pac-10 players, senior forward Jon Brockman of Washington, junior forward Chase Budinger of Arizona, senior guard Darren Collison of UCLA, junior forward Taj Gibson of USC, and sophomore guard James Harden of Arizona State. Harden continues to make a strong case for player of the year with his fourth 30-point game this year. He stands the best chance for it from the Pac-10, with Collison next.
The Pac-10 has their defining win with Arizona’s victory over Gonzaga, but still had a weak out of conference showing. The only teams that are lock for the tournament right now are UCLA and Arizona State, after that Arizona surprisingly looks to be the next best bet, with an ever improving USC closing in. If Cal or Stanford can keep rolling through once conference play starts they will have a chance. Washington State needs to win at LSU to stand any chance.
Bad Santas.Portland St. 77, Gonzaga 70. Santa Claus made an early visit to the environs of Cincinnati, OH, and Spokane, WA, tonight, but instead of leaving toys and treats for the tots of Xavier and Gonzaga Universities, respectively, he left a couple of lumps of coal and another undisclosed brownish substance in their stockings. AP #7 Gonzaga and AP # 14 Xavier, both coming off of devastating Saturday losses (in different ways), were unable to shake off their hangovers from losses to UConn and Duke and instead dropped home games tonight that sent shocks throughout mid-major America. The more surprising upset of the two took place out west, where Gonzaga was thoroughly outplayed by the scrappier, guttier Portland St. Vikings. PSU was led by 5’6 Jeremiah Dominguez, who hit seven threes for a sick line of 25/6/5 assts. Yes, a guy shorter than you outrebounded all but Gonzaga’s 6’11 Austin Daye (9 boards) and 6’10 Josh Heytvelt (8) in this game. Portland St., who has losses to Hampton and Cal Poly on its resume, never wavered in the face of the superior athleticism and size of Gonzaga. GU, should have come out ready to eat glass in this one, but instead they allowed their heartbreaking loss to UConn over the weekend to mentally affect their play tonight. Would that have happened to UNC? Pitt? Duke? UCLA? Gonzaga needs to get tougher mentally. Butler 74, Xavier 65. Wasn’t Butler supposed to be rebuilding this year? Amazingly, eight of Brad Stevens’ top nine Bulldogs are freshmen and sophomores, whereas XU starts two juniors and one senior. So how is it that Butler was able to come into the Cintas Center and earn a victory in a location where Xavier had won its last fifteen games? Standard Butler-issue hardnosed defense and poise. Butler was able to keep Xavier under control from three (7-24) while also winning the battle of ball control (-7 turnovers) in a tough game that Xavier will regret losing come March. Matt Howard (19/14) and Gordon Hayward (19/10) both provided double-doubles, but the key stat of the game may have been Xavier’s 12-22 from the line. The 198th best FT-shooting team in America didn’t help their cause tonight, several times failing to convert both FT opportunities down the stretch. If Gonzaga and Xavier want to be taken seriously as “high mids” vying for the Final Four, they cannot afford to lose home games like these.
A10 Weekend. The A10 used three televised games on Saturday to announce its presence to America, knocking off an SEC, Big East and Big 12 team in the process (two of which were effectively road games). With the relative weakness of the Pac-10 and SEC this year, the A10 could make a run at a legitimate four NCAA bids this season. Today’s results could go a long way in the Tourney Committee’s minds toward that end. Great weekend for the Atlantic 10.
Temple 88, Tennessee 72. Every outlet in America is making the “Merry Christmas” joke, so we’ll refrain here, but suffice it to say that Temple’s Dionte Christmas stole Bruce Pearl’s cookies and blew up his sled with an explosive game where it seemed as if every shot he threw at the rim was flushing straight through. More importantly, Temple exposed Tennessee’s defense for what it is – simply not good enough to sustain any kind of legitimate run in March. The Owls shot a blistering 55%, led by Xmas’ 35 on seven threes, and it often appeared as if the Vol players had little interest in covering him. The roof nearly came off the place when he hit three trifectas in a row during a personal 1:30 run to blow open the game. Temple, who had not defeated a top 10 team since John Chaney was still on campus, celebrated with a spirited RTC, to which, we say – deserved.
The Pac-10 still is searching for the first defining win of the year. The out of conference schedules have not helped any teams come tournament time. Sure Stanford is 4-0, but the toughest team they have played is a 4-3 Colorado team who lost to Montana State. Arizona State is 7-1, but their best win is over a 6-1 Nebraska team, who had yet to play a team from a big conference when they came into Tempe. One thing is for sure, the Pac-10 does not want to go back into Texas where Arizona lost 67-66 at Texas A&M and UCLA lost 68-64 at Texas . In fact, the only win against a Texas team this week was Washington’s victory over winless Texas Southern University. The Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series is not what Tom Hansen envisioned, as the Pac-10 is 3-6 so far. Worth noting, Arizona is two baskets away from being 8-0.
The nation’s #1 shooting guard, Xavier Henry, announced to the world on Sportscenter during the 24HoCH that he will attend Memphis next season. His brother, CJ Henry, is already a Tiger. This is very good news to Calipari, who watched his team clank three after three last night (2-19) in their game against UMass, because Henry’s range easily extends out to 22 feet. Additionally, it shows that for elite guard prospects, Memphis has become the NBA stopover de rigeur.
The 2012-16 Final Fours will be chosen from these ten locations tomorrow: Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, North Texas, Phoenix, San Antonio and St. Louis. North Texas? Is that supposed to mean Amarillo? Texarkana? Paris?
Game of the Night.UNC 77, Kentucky 58. It wasn’t the GOTN in terms of play on the court, but it was definitely the game with the most attention (as it should be, given the historical importance of the two programs). What was striking was just how overmatched Kentucky looked against Carolina’s defense. Every pass was an exercise in precariousness, as UK often simply looked as if they were trying to hang onto the possession rather than actually running a play to score the ball. UNC forced 17 turnovers in the first half, 28 for the game, and it honestly felt like more than that. Part of the blame is on Kentucky’s huge gaping achilles heel – the lack of a competent point guard – but UNC clearly had a gameplan to cover those passing lanes and keep the ball away from UK’s only consistent scoring threat, Patrick Patterson. Patterson ended up with 19/11, but that was mostly in the second half after the game was well in hand. You may ask why we thought a game that was largely played in a 12-18 point range was ‘well in hand,’ but it was patently obvious to anyone watching that UK simply couldn’t put together enough good offensive possessions to make a serious run against the Tarheels. Thing is, we didn’t feel that Carolina was all that great offensively. They shot only 41% from the field, led by Deon Thompson’s 20/9, but their offense wasn’t as fluid as we would have expected from a team returning so many pieces. Of course, we realize two starters are out injured, one of whom you may have heard of before. When Carolina gets to full strength again, bad news for the rest of the ACC and the nation – Roy may indeed have his best team since his 2005 national champs. For some further thoughts, check here for the UNC viewpoint and here for the Kentucky one.
Upset of the Night. UAB 72, Arizona 71. Very mild upset, but beating Arizona at home still qualifies. An extremely entertaining game, it had one of the more bizarre endings you’ll ever see. Is Russ Pennell already on the hot seat at Arizona? A few more unconscionable mental lapses by his players in late-game situations and he will be. UAB had blown a 14-pt second-half lead when Arizona rebounded a FT miss and put it back in to tie the game with 0:27 left. That’s when freshman Kyle Fogg inexpicably decided to foul a UAB player! Keep in mind that the game was TIED. Clearly he had forgotten that minor fact. So a timeout ensues and then UAB predictably goes to the line and misses the front end of the 1-and-1. Arizona misses a contested shot, UAB gets the rebound, and this time, Jamelle Horne (a sophomore) chases down Paul Delaney III and INTENTIONALLY FOULS him at 0.8 seconds as he’s running upcourt. AGAIN, THE GAME IS STILL TIED. Delaney hits one free throw and effectively finishes a game that should have been going to overtime. Are the Arizona players this dumb or is Pennell not telling them to keep the score in mind while they’re playing??? (be sure to check John Stevens’ liveblog comments on this here) Chase Budinger played solidly, leading Arizona with 27/5, while Jordan Hill came off the bench for 13/22. UAB’s Robert Vaden had 20, including four of their thirteen threes, in the winning effort. UAB now moves on to MSG to play Oklahoma next Wednesday night.
Oklahoma 82, Davidson 78. How ridiculous is Steph Curry? He had an off night (12-29 FGs) and he still dropped 44 on a good Sooners defense designed exclusively to contain him. Does anyone not enjoy watching this kid play? Just as soon as he throws up a tired, forced jumper that goes wide left by three feet, he’ll turn right around and drop a 25-footer right in someone’s grill. This seems to be the Davidson MO – play major conference teams tough on the road in Nov/Dec, then beat them at neutral sites in March. As for Oklahoma, the Griffin boys combined for 41/27, but really we just have one question – what’s going on with Blake Griffin’s eyes? He looks more crosseyed than Stuart Scott at a Carolina sorority party, but his game doesn’t seem affected by it. OU actually had a 21-pt lead with 12:53 remaining, but they were able to hold on largely because of great foul shooting (26-31). Oklahoma will bring the Griffin dunking show to MSG next week, where they will play UAB.
Purdue 78, Loyola (IL) 46. All you really need to know about this game is that it was 40-14 at halftime. We’re sure Loyola was content to leave the NIT with its upset over Georgia in tow, but Purdue is a really good team. E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell led the way with 14 and 13 pts, respectively, but it was a solid team effort from the Boilers, placing five guys in double figures. Purdue will play BC on Wednesday night.
Boston College 82, St. John’s 70. The Johnnies won’t get two more games at “home” in MSG next week, after losing to BC, who we are officially adopting as one of our surprise teams in the ACC this season. The addition of Vermont transfer Joe Trapani (19/4/3 blks) has really improved this team, which already had an all-conference performer in Tyrese Rice (28/5/9 assts).
Midnight in the Garden of Memphis and Moraga. Ok, actually 11pm tipoffs locally in both places, but the ESPN 24HoCH kicked off last night with two entertaining games, and not one BCS school was involved! Check JS’ liveblog of these games, but these were our thoughts.
St. Mary’s 99, Fresno St. 85. In a last-minute moment of clarity, we actually threw caution to the wind and drove over to this game last night. God, how great would it be to go back to college?? Patty Mills was typically awesome, but his show-stopping speed didn’t come through live as much as we thought it would. He was still money, though, going for 27/5/6 assts with 19 of those points coming in the first 17 minutes of the game. St. Mary’s played well, but they were never able to completey finish off Fresno – their defense and shot selection looked a little suspect at times. Diamon Simpson didn’t have his best game, but he still ended up with a dub-dub (10/10) and a couple of nasty blocks in the interior. St. Mary’s will be heard from this season. The play of the dayweekmonthyeardecadecenturymillenium epoch occurred halfway through the first half, when Fresno’s Paul George (25/10) took one hard dribble from the right wing and seemingly cocked his arm back into the 1980s before throwing a hellacious dunk over everyone on earth. Seriously, the entire arena breathlessly gasped for air after that throwdown. We’ve attended hundreds of games in our life – mostly college, but some pro – and that dunk ranks in the top three we’ve ever seen in person – it was utterly superbulous.
Memphis 90, UMass 68. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. The bricks thrown up in the first ten minutes of this game rivaled anything we’d seen in a while (see shot chart below – bricks are in red font). Maybe it was the combined 7-43 (16%) three-point shooting that put us in a bad mood, but we got so fed up with this game that it inspired us to make the drive to Moraga instead of watching the second half. Things heated up in half two, at least for Memphis, who were led by Antonio Anderson’s 15/12/5 assts. The Tigers began pulling away from UMass on the basis of continued poor shooting by UMass, and eventually Memphis’ athleticism and size put down the Minutemen. It says something about Memphis in that they were able to win so convincingly despite only shooting 39% for the game, only hitting two threes and getting outrebounded.
Other Games of Interest.
Georgia 61, E. Michigan 60. Dennis Felton saves his job for another day. The Dawgs were down by as many as 11 pts in the mid-second half before rallying to nip the Eagles
Baylor 90, Centenary 55. Baylor hit an absurd 64% in a romp over Centenary. JS in the liveblog had a lot of good things to say about the Bears.
USC 73, New Mexico St. 60. Taj Gibson had 22/10/5 blks to lead the Trojans to a 2-0 star. Demar DeRozan had a disappointing night with 7/6.
Ole Miss 89, South Alabama 71. Ole Miss rallied from the bad news that it had lost its best defender today (Eniel Polynice) by pulling away from South Alabama, led by David Huertas’ 27 pts.
San Diego 65, Nevada 51. USD’s Rob Jones led the way with 23/5 on 10-12 shooting, and teammate Gyno Pomare had 12 pts in his first game back. Nevada freshman Luke Babbitt had 20/12 in his debut.
Indiana 60, IUPUI 57. For what it’s worth, Tom Crean has already earned his salary by going 2-0 this year.
Gonzaga 80, Idaho 46. We swear we saw a score on the bottom line that said Gonzaga 17, Idaho 1. Things did not improve.
Tennessee 91, UT-Martin 64. We were excited to see Lester Hudson in this one, but UT held him in check (20/4/5 assts on 7-22 shooting). Backup center Brian Williams dropped 21/12 on the visitors.
Syracuse 76, Richmond 71. It took everything Syracuse had to avoid the upset at home, but starting backcourt Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf combined for 49/6/7 assts in the game, which was tight throughout.
Texas 76, Tulane 51. Damion James with 16/8 as Texas rolled, holding Tulane to 31% shooting and putting five players into double figures.
Arizona St. 59, San Diego St. 52. Tough loss for SDSU, as they led much of this game behind Kyle Spain’s 17 pts. ASU’s James Harden had 18/5 as he keyed his team to a late 18-8 run to win the game.
News & Notes. We’d like to take a moment at the beginning of tonight’s ATB to honor former Cal head coach and legendary big man guru Pete Newell, who died today at the age of 93. He led Cal to its only national championship in 1959, won a gold medal as the US Olympic team coach in 1960, and was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1979. Although he was before our time, we’ve heard the stories of his legend and he is considered one of the most influential figures in basketball history. May he rest in peace.
Photo Credit: LA Times
Game of the Night. UAB 64, Santa Clara 61. We’re throwing some love to the mid-majors tonight with this one, but we expected this game to be a dandy, and it was. Santa Clara led most of the game, but UAB made a valiant comeback in the second half to tie the game with three minutes remaining and held on to win Robert Vaden had 23/9 and Paul Delaney III had 20/5 for UAB, who didn’t get much production from anyone else. SC’s John Bryant had a huge 17/15 performance, but it wasn’t enough. In an interesting sidenote, the game tipped off with 100 people in the stands at the McKale Center in Tucson. People are really excited about basketball in Arizona right now.
Upset of the Night. Oakland 82, Oregon 79 (OT). We really feel like you could throw Ernie Kent, Mark Gottfried, John Brady, Dave Odom, and a few others into a jar, shake them up and let them float to any school in America, and you’d end up with the same mediocre programs wherever they land. Not much was expected from the Ducks this year (heck, ATQ doesn’t even have commentary on the game yet), but they could usually count on their home court for the push to win most of their OOC games. No longer. Oakland’s Johnathan Jones dropped 32/7 on the Ducks, (10 in OT, including the decisive bucket with seven seconds left) who were outshot from the floor by their visitors (43% to 39%). Joevon Catron (13/11) and Michael Dunigan (15/10) both contributed double-doubles in the losing effort. So far, the Pac-10 is not looking too impressive.
Preseason NIT Action.
Davidson 99, James Madison 64. Stephen Curry is just ridiculous. 33/9 assts/4 stls on 14-19 shooting. The Wildcats got off to an 11-0 start and never looked back. They’ll face Oklahoma tomorrow night.
Oklahoma 94, Miss. Valley St. 53. This OU team has looked scary in two games thus far. Blake Griffin dominated inside, with 20/19/6 stls. MVSU more than doubled its output from Saturday night against Wazzu, but they looked completely overmatched in this game.
BC 90, Loyola (MD) 57. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani led the Eagles with 20/4 as Tyrese Rice came back from suspension to contribute 16/6 assts. BC might be better than people were thinking, folks – they will play Cornell in round two.
St. John’s 86, Cornell 75. The Johnnies, led by Anthony Mason Jr.’s 24 pts, held off a late Cornell rally that had cut the lead to 80-75. Cornell was led by Ryan Wittman’s 25/4.
Purdue 87, E. Michigan 58. Purdue shook off a slow start to go on a 26-6 run to put this game away by the mid-first half. E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell combined for 35/8/8 assts in the win. Purdue will play Loyola (IL) next.
Loyola (IL) 74, Georgia 53. Let’s just go ahead and fire Dennis Felton right now and avoid this lame duck nonsense for the next four months.
Arizona 75, Florida Atlantic 62. Get used to this – Budinger, Wise and Hill scored 52 of Arizona’s 75 points tonight. The Wildcats never really pulled away from FAU – we remain unconvinced. UAB will beat this team tomorrow night.
Big East Tuneups.
Marquette 106, Chicago St. 87. Are teams hitting the century mark more often this year? Wesley Matthews led Marquette with 26/9/3 assts, but new coach Buzz Williams was largely disappointed with his defense for allowing 51 second-half points to Chicago St.
Villanova 107, Fordham 68. Wow, Dante Cunningham absolutely dominated the interior (31/11) as Villanova rolled up Fordham, shooting a blistering 58% with all five starters reaching double figures.
Georgetown 71, Jacksonville 62. Freshman center Greg Monroe’s debut at Georgetown went well (14/7), even though the Hoyas struggled to put away Jacksonville. Georgetown needs to shore up their three-point shooting (5-23), but their defense was typically solid, holding Jax to 35% for the game.
Pittsburgh 82, Miami (OH) 53. Miami head coach Charlie Coles gave the nod to Pitt as the better team between the Panthers and UCLA at this juncture in the season. Levance Fields is just so important to this team, getting 12/12 assts as every starter reached double figures.
Connecticut 99, Hartford 56. With 14:30 to go, this was a three-point game. UConn then went on a late 54-12 run to put this one away. AJ Price was on the bench for being a knucklehead with a sprained ankle, but Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker both had 21 to make up the slack. Hasheem Thabeet had a somewhat disappointing 9/8/2 blks.
Other Games of Interest.
Xavier 81, Toledo 65. Xavier enjoyed a comfortable margin throughout the second half, but the story of this game was returning MAC scoring leader Tyrone Kent’s 37 pts. He even went 10-10 from the line – true scorers understand that’s where the easy points are.
Austin Peay 86, Belmont 84. Drake Reed’s two FTs with 0.2 showing on the clock sealed a comeback win for Austin Peay over Belmont. He contributed 24/9 in the win, along with Wes Channels, who put up 25 pts. AP shot 58% in the second half to come back from 12 down at halftime.
Penn St. 74, NJIT 47. NJIT now holds the record for college basketball futility with 35 Ls in a row. Another 26% FG shooting night. Can we send them back to D2 now?
WYN2K. This is not the same Pac-10 conference as last year, plain and simple. Gone are lottery picks OJ Mayo (USC), Russell Westbrook (UCLA), Kevin Love (UCLA), Brook Lopez (Stanford) and Jerryd Bayless (Arizona). Gone are Robin Lopez (Stanford) and Ryan Anderson (Cal), also first-rounders. Gone are Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (UCLA) and Davon Jefferson (USC), who went in the second round and not at all, respectively. This year’s Pac-10 transition isn’t just limited to players. There are new coaches at Oregon St. (Craig Robinson), Stanford (Johnny Dawkins), Cal (Mike Montgomery) and Arizona (Russ Pennell). It’s safe to say that no other major conference will look as significantly different from last year as the Pac-10 in 2008-09.
Predicted Champion.UCLA (NCAA #1). Perhaps the only consistency in the Pac-10 this year will be he continued dominance of Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins over the rest of this conference. After three straight Final Fours and another superb recruiting class matriculating in Westwood, Howland has built his program to the enviable point where he can lose two lottery picks and another starter as early entries to the NBA Draft and not expect his program to suffer major slippage. While we don’t believe that this version of UCLA will be as good of a team as the 2007-08 edition, the Bruins’ position relative to the rest of the conference may actually be stronger this time around. He returns an all-american PG, Darren Collison, who has played in three F4s and led the nation in 3FG% last year (.525, min. 80 attempts). More importantly, Collison has a chip on his shoulder after a miserable national semifinal performance against Memphis last year (2 pts, 5 tos, 5 fouls) – when he’s directing his team effectively, there are few teams in America that can overcome their bruising defense and efficient offense. The national #1 recruiting class is headlined by all-world guard Jrue Holiday, who is expected to start from day one. His talent, along with a cadre of perimeter (Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson) and inside players (J’Mison Morgan, Drew Gordon), will give Howland numerous lineup options to throw at opponents. Furthermore, UCLA returns a finally-healthy Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya to provide experience and a steady hand at crunch time. As we said before, we don’t believe this UCLA team will be as good as last year’s squad, but it probably doesn’t have to be. The Pac-10 has dropped in talent significantly, and UCLA should be able to roll through to another fantastic record and possible high RPI rating to garner another #1 seed out west. Here’s a pretty good indication of why Darren Collison is so important for this team.
NCAA Teams. We’re not sure that we see more than four NCAA teams in the Pac-10 this year, which sent six to the Big Dance last season and arguably deserved seven (Arizona St.). In the best-case scenario, things come together for certain teams and the league hopes for five on Selection Sunday, but there’s a more realistic chance that there will only be three NCAA selections made on that day.
Arizona St.(NCAA #4) – Herb Sendek’s coaching resume shows that once he gets a program to the 20-win plateau for the first time, it typically stays there. In other words, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that ASU, who is returning its top eight players from a 21-13 NIT quarterfinalist, will regress this season. The key player, of course, is James Harden, a coulda-been-one-and-done, who lit up the conference for 18/5/3 assts, including 41% from behind the arc (and 53% overall). Harden is a future lottery pick in a league where the only other potential such picks are freshmen (DeRozan, Holiday). Pac-10 teams are not going to enjoy their trips to Tempe this year.
USC(NCAA #8) – We struggled in making this selection, but the thing that pushes USC into the top three of the Pac-10 is simply, talent. Other than UCLA, no other program has as much pure talent that it can put on the floor. Undisciplined, maddening talent – sure – but that’s Tim Floyd for ya. Demar DeRozan wll be a highlight reel for his one year in LA, but he has considerable help next to him, assuming they can all learn to share the ball and play together. Daniel Hackett, Taj Gibson and Dwight Lewis are all talented players, and if UNC transfer Alex Stepheson is deemed eligible to play for the Trojans this year, USC has enough talent to make a run at the Pac-10 title. We don’t expect that to happen because Ben Howland is Ben Howland and Tim Floyd is Tim Floyd, but the talent differential excuse doesn’t hold water anymore.
Washington St.(NCAA #10) – We’re taking a bit of a risk with Wazzu at fourth and a bubble team for the NCAAs, but we truly believe that Tony Bennett is a system coach. Like Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, the names on the backs of the jerseys are largely irrelevant to the success of the program. They’re going to run their slower-than-Xmas stuff no matter which faces are running around out there, and in so doing, dare the rest of the Pac-10 to figure it out. Now we’re not saying that the losses of Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill won’t hurt – after all, that trio was the most decorated group of players in Washington St. history; but with center Aron Baynes returning along with guard Taylor Rochestie and small forward Daven Harmerling, Bennett has more than enough experience to continue confounding skeptics up in Pullman.
Washington (NIT) – This program has seemed to be in a funk ever since Brandon Roy left the dreary environs of Seattle. If the Huskies are going to take advantage of a weaker Pac-10 to make a run at the NCAA Tournament (or the NIT), they’re going to have to get another superb season from PF Jon Brockman (18/12 on 54% FG). But that won’t be enough without improved performances from Quincy Pondexter and Justin Dentmon on the perimeter. Freshman Isaiah Thomas is getting some hype from Husky fans – perhaps he can push them over the top.
California – The story here is obviously Mike Montgomery’s return to college coaching at his former employer’s bitterest rival. Had Cal held onto star player Ryan Anderson, we would have considered the Bears as a bubble NCAA team. We do think Monty will get there eventually, as he did at Long Beach St. and Stanford (not exactly powerhouses when he arrived), but he’s not a quick-fix guy and it will take time to undo the culture of mediocrity left by Ben Braun.
Arizona – On talent alone, with Chase Budinger, Nic Wise and Jordan Hill, the Wildcats should be a top three Pac-10 team. However, with the fiasco that unfolded last month and the eyebrow-raising hire of the fomer Arizona State radio announcerRuss Pennell as the head coach, we’re not sure anyone will actually want to play for UA this season. Putting them seventh was a gift.
Oregon – We still can’t figure out how Ernie Kent got a big contract extension, but we suppose it doesn’t take much to satisfy people in Eugene. At least until Mark Few takes an interest in coaching in the Pac-10. With only one significant player returning, the 5’6 Tajuan Porter, and nine new faces, we just don’t see the Ducks making a return trip to the NCAAs this season.
Stanford – We think Johnny Dawkins is in for a surprise in Palo Alto this season. Nobody has any clue as to how good of a coach he will be, but we can say with a degree of certainty that the only thing keeping the Cardinal afloat last year was the interior presence of the comical Lopez twins. The guardplay was relatively abysmal (39.5% shooting), and oh, well, now the Lopezes are gone. Good luck with that, JD.
Oregon St. – Hey, did you guys hear that new head coach Craig Robinson is Barack Obama’s bro-in-law? Wehadn’teither. Screw Corvallis, with Robinson’s financial resume, he should be in DC helping Barry fix the economy. Seriously though, last year, OSU might have been the worst major conference team we’d ever seen (Indiana has a shot at bettering that this year). Ferguson had success at Brown, though, which is a herculean task in its own right, so maybe he can get a few Ws in Corvallis this season. Three or four would be miraculous.
Washington v. Kansas (11.24.08)
UCLA @ Texas (12.04.08)
USC @ Oklahoma (12.04.08)
Arizona @ Texas A&M (12.05.08)
Gonzaga @ Washington St. (12.10.08)
Arizona v. Gonzaga (12.14.08)
Kansas @ Arizona (12.23.08)
Notre Dame @ UCLA (02.07.09)
UCLA @ USC (01.11.09)
Arizona St. @ UCLA (01.17.09)
USC @ Washington St. (01.24.09)
USC @ UCLA (02.04.09)
USC @ Arizona St. (02.15.09)
Washington @ UCLA (02.19.09)
Arizonan @ Arizona St. (02.22.09)
Neat-O Stat. The Pac-10, with only ten conference members, is the only BCS league that plays a true round-robin schedule of home/away games with every other team. We like this because it gives a true measure of the strength of each team relative to one another in the conference. There are no plans on the horizon to expand the Pac-10 to twelve members (for football reasons, the NCAA requires twelve teams to have a postseason championship game).
65 Team Era. The Pac-10 has traditionally been the weakest of the six major conferences in its NCAA Tournament performance, going 127-96 (.570) over the era. The league simply doesn’t put as many teams into the Tournament as its peers, earning 4.1 bids per year – the next lowest is the Big 12 with 4.8 per year, and the “Super Six” average is 5 bids per year. As might be expected as a correlation to that fact, the Pac-10 is also last among the six conferences in #1 seeds (12), S16s (36) and F4s (9). UCLA can’t do it all, folks!
Final Thoughts. UCLA has led the re-emergence of the Pac-10 conference as a basketball powerhouse the last several seasons, but turmoil among several previously consistent programs (Arizona, Stanford) has put the possibility of UCLA and the Nine Dwarves back into the conversation. One thing that we can be certain of is that Ben Howland will win and win big as long as he’s residing in Westwood. He hasn’t won a national title yet, but it seems a foregone conclusion that one of these years he’ll break through and win the brass ring. The rest of the Pac-10 is going to have to figure out a way to recruit on par with UCLA as well as perform in March before this league will be considered a national power again. We know that Pac-10 schools can attract star talent across the spectrum, but can they be coached up to taste national success?